Pinstripes—Room to Spare

June 2017 View more


Photos by  Greg Shapps

Nostalgia being such an easy and comfortable trap to stumble into at this time of year, I found myself in a back-when state of mind on the drive to Oak Brook to check out Pinstripes, a sprawling dining and entertainment complex that recently joined the swelling ranks of such options at the village mall. While live music figures into the entertainment portion of the equation on weekends here, the primary off-menu draws are bocce and bowling, and nothing gets the nostalgia churning for a suburban kid quite like a bowling alley.

Changing Lanes

N2013_12_01_026DININOf course, bowling has come a long way over the years. Gone are the overhead projector transparency score sheets and the aromatic haze of cigarette smoke and aerosol disinfectant and the 50-cent Old Milwaukee Lights, replaced by cosmic lights and fog, computerized scoring and insistent Top-40 soundtracks. Pinstripes actually represents the latest step forward for the sport, forgoing the loud, cloying, neon atrocities of the first wave of the revolution in favor of an upscale, high-tech version of the old school—think leather furniture, gourmet eats and fancier rental shoes than the ones you probably wore.

Behind the fancy trappings it’s still bowling at heart, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to blow off holiday stress than a couple of hours on the lanes. Given the size of the actual Pinstripes structure—a handsome, hulking fortress of a place—it was actually kind of surprising to find only 16 bowling lanes plus eight bocce courts, split between two floors. While tucking in a few frames on the quiet weeknight we visited certainly wouldn’t have been a problem, one can imagine a bowling backlog on busy weekends.

Frames of Mind

N2013_12_01_025TABLEThat said, even those who never pick up a ball will still likely enjoy a visit to Pinstripes, in large part thanks to its range of disparate environments. From televised sports and loud conversation in the boisterous bar area, to a traditional sit-down meal in the dining room, to a view of the bocce action at the heated indoor/outdoor courts, to hot toddies around the fire pit, Pinstripes utilizes its extensive space to good effect, essentially providing tailor-made setting for almost every taste and temperament. But what really elevates Pinstripes above its upscale recreational brethren is the menu—a rich and wide-ranging Italian/American bistro slate that reduces the thunder of the alleys to mere thematic backdrop for a first-rate dining experience.
With a complimentary basket of warm focaccia wedges and pesto already on the table, we hardly felt the need to sample from the tempting selection of starters, pizzas, and flatbreads. But it was hard to resist overindulging just a bit with choices like the tenderloin sliders and fried calamari drawing our attention, and we ultimately settled on a gooey spinach and artichoke dip to help kick things off in aromatic, comfort-food fashion.

N2013_12_01_024TABLEThe extra sustenance proved a wise decision, as the journey through the rest of the menu would prove to be an almost exhausting task, given the wide array of salads, sandwiches, pastas and large plates to consider. After narrowing down our options to the epicurean equivalent of a 7-10 split we ultimately went for opposite sides of the lane, with my companion opting for a chopped salad piled high with fresh vegetables, grilled chicken and a mountain of crispy shoestring noodles, while I went with a delicious Italian “jambalaya” risotto—a spicy and savory mound of perfectly cooked rice teeming with Italian sausage, pesto shrimp and a chicken breast in a red-pepper aioli. For dessert, however, there were no such split decisions. The convenient three-dessert flight provided sample-sized portions of the caramelized cheesecake, apple-pear bread pudding and Frangelico chocolate cake for a decadent turkey-in-the-tenth trio to cap the evening.